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Wachs Wants Homes Shielded From Road Noise

Times Staff Writer

Noting a proliferation of new homes along Los Angeles’ noisy freeways, City Councilman Joel Wachs proposed Monday that developers be required to erect sound walls or other noise-deadening devices when such housing is built.

Wachs, who has faced criticism from residents of a North Hollywood neighborhood suffering from Hollywood Freeway noise, said he would introduce his motion in the City Council today.

The state Department of Transportation has built nearly 100 sound walls in the past decade to protect homes beset by freeway din, but it will not construct walls to protect homes built after a freeway is constructed.

“We have to stop building these homes without protecting those who will buy them,” said Wachs, who added that his northeast San Fernando Valley district has many development projects proposed and under construction along freeways.

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Developers “have used up much of the good land,” he said, “and now more and more they are building along freeways on sites that were considered undesirable, so something ought to be done.”

Wachs’ motion also urges the city to help those living along freeways who do not qualify for a Caltrans wall because the freeway predates their homes.

But he said he “wasn’t quite sure yet” where money would come from to help such residents.

Wachs said he was unsure whether his measure should be applied to condominiums and apartments or only to single-family houses.

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Caltrans engineer William Minter, who oversees sound wall construction in Southern California, said that of all the cities in the region, “Los Angeles seems to be the most lax in requiring developers to protect homes from noise.”

“Other cities seem to have no trouble fixing such requirements” through the power given municipalities under the state environmental protection laws, he said.

A developer in Pomona was recently required by that city to build a 22-foot-high wall along the San Bernardino Freeway, Minter said. And many developers have voluntarily built walls or earthen berms to protect residents.

Timothy Taylor, who heads the Los Angeles Building and Safety Department’s Building Bureau, said he sees “sound wall or soundproofing requirements for some new developments, but city planners certainly don’t require them on all projects along freeways.”

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In addition to the walls already built, Caltrans has identified 180 neighborhoods where noise levels are high enough to qualify for a wall, Minter said.

Depending on the amount of money appropriated by the state Legislature, Caltrans could complete the list within 10 to 20 years, he said.

Wachs’ proposal “won’t do a thing for us,” complained Robert Brice, who heads a group of residents along Babcock Avenue in North Hollywood, just east of the Hollywood Freeway, whose houses were built in 1979, 11 years after the freeway was opened.

Brice said that, at the time they bought their homes, he and his neighbors “didn’t realize how noisy it was and also didn’t know the full health effects of long-term living in high noise.”

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Caltrans recently estimated that it would cost $13,000 per house to protect the 30 houses in his neighborhood from freeway noise.


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